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How do I use Standards-based Grading for my course in Buzz?

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Before trying to use Standards-based Grading, learn more: What is Standards-based Grading in Buzz?

SBG must be enabled and configured in your domain by an administrator before you can use it in a course.

To use Buzz's Standards-based grading tools, teachers must:

Enable Standards-based grading in a course

Once Standards-based grading is set up in your domain, teachers and other course authors can enable it in Course settings:

  1. In Course settings, scroll to Advanced options and check the Use standards-based grading instead of traditional scoring box.
  1. Checking this box makes a Standards-based grading card appear immediately near the top of Course settings. You will also notice that several checkboxes and cards that are not relevant to a Standards-based grading course disappear after checking this box. You can review the settings configured at the domain here, but to edit them for your course, select Proficiency descriptions from the Tools dropdown.  
  2. Save.

Customize Proficiency level descriptions for your course

It's important that administrators standardize proficiency level descriptions at the domain-level to create consistency across courses and grade levels, so students, observers, and teachers can easily understand the terminology, processes, and expectations. However, some courses may benefit from having the descriptions customized for its standards, and Buzz allows you to do that.

  1. Open the Tools dropdown in the Editor and select Proficiency descriptions.
  1. Check the Edit descriptions box below the standard for which you want to edit the Proficiency description.
  2. Make the changes you want to each Proficiency description.
  3. Save.

Note: Making changes to any of the Proficiency descriptions for a standard saves all of the descriptions for that standard and overrides the domain's default descriptions for that standard. This means that, if an admin makes changes to the descriptions, those change aren't inherited by those that have been edited.

To restore the defaults and the inheritance of domain changes, click the Discard custom descriptions button next to Save.

Align activities with learning standards

Because Standards-based grading is designed to allow students to better understand how they are performing against defined learning standards over time, teachers and other course authors must be able to align activities with the standards that they're intended to strengthen and assess.  

In non-SBG courses, Buzz refers to standards as objectives;  with SBG enabled, we use standards. When the term objectives is used in the following articles, you will see standards in your courses:

Each teacher or course author will set up their Standards-based grading course a little differently, but consider the following best practices as you set them up:

  • In order for Standards-based grading to be effective, the number of standards students are expected to master must be achievable. According to educators experienced with the model, this number is about 10-12 standards per semester.
  • You should be able to show how an activity directly helps a student master a standard before aligning it with that standard.
  • Keep standards simple and concrete, and don't align so many standards to an activity that it becomes confusing for the student. It's better for a student to master one, concrete standard with an activity than to try and master many in a way that dilutes the impact.

Customize Proficiency level descriptions for activities

It's important that administrators standardize proficiency levels at the domain-level to create consistency across courses and grade levels, so students, observers, and teachers can easily understand the terminology, processes, and expectations. However, because some activities may require customizing the proficiency descriptions in order to firmly align a standard to them, Buzz allows you to do that.

  1. Open the Editor tool and click the pencil [edit] icon next to the activity you want to customize the proficiency level description for.
  1. In the Settings tab, click Customize proficiency descriptions on the Standards alignment card.
  1. Check the Edit description box.
  2. Make your desired edits to the Proficiency descriptions.
  3. Click Done, and Save.

Note: Keep in mind that there is value for students and teachers in having some standardization across activities and courses, and try to maintain the essence of the description provided by your domain while making them match your specific needs.

Note: Making changes to any of the Proficiency descriptions for a standard in an activity saves all of the descriptions for that standard in that activity, overriding the domain's default descriptions and any course-level customizations for that standard. This means that, if an admin makes changes to the descriptions, those change aren't inherited by those that have been edited.

To restore the defaults and the inheritance of domain changes, click the Discard custom descriptions button.

Grade activities in a Standards-based grading course?

Teachers still use Buzz's Grade editor to grade activities in Standards-based grading courses, and the basic parts remain the same. The major difference is that grading consists of assessing how well a student demonstrated proficiency of the aligned standard(s) using the proficiency levels provided at the domain.

  1. In this example there are five (5) proficiency levels:
    • Incomplete earns 0 points
    • Beginning earns 1 point
    • Developing earns 2 points
    • Proficient earns 3 points
    • Expanding earns 4 points (or full credit)
  2. To assign a proficiency level, click it. The cell is highlighed and the points are automatically applied.
  3. As with any activity, you can provide additional feedback (both for individual standards as well as for the entire activity) in text, video, or audio, as well as create a private note for yourself.

How assessments are graded with Standards-based grading

In order for an assessment to receive a score in a Standards-based grading course, the activity must be aligned with at least one of the standards. Buzz also allows teachers to align each question in an assessment with standards in a course, but it isn't required.

Here's how grading works for assessments in a Standards-based grading course:

  • If the assessment activity is aligned with one or more standard and no questions are individually aligned: The assessment's total score is applied evenly across each standard the assessment activity is aligned with.
  • If the assessment activity is aligned with one or more standard and at least one question is individually aligned with one or more of those same standards: The standards scores are based on the performance of the aligned questions as well as the assessment's total score evenly applied on top of those scores.
  • If questions are individually aligned with one or more standard and the assessment activity is not aligned: The assessment will not receive a score.

Review grades in a Standards-based grading course

The Standards-based grading Gradebook is organized entirely around the course Standards in order to emphasize student performance on mastering those Standards.

  1. The topmost column headers are the course Standards (in this example, they are numbered 1-15).
    • Click the header to expand and collapse columns.
  2. When the Standard columns are collapsed, you see each student's overall Proficiency level for that Standard listed in the column (when the columns are expanded, this is still listed in the first column of the expansion). The level shown is determined by the Calculation method chosen for the domain (this example is the Recent method with a Calculation count of 3, meaning that it's averaging the Proficiency levels of the three activities most recently graded).
  3. Nested within each Standard column are the activities that are aligned to that Standard. When you expand a Standard column, you see those activities listed in the order they're listed in the Activities tool, and, if they've been graded, you see each student's Proficiency level for each. These scores are in rounded containers to distinguish them from the overall scores.
    • Click any activity to open the Activity grader for that activity, then click a student name to grade their activity with the Grade editor.
  4. The new Proficiency column displays the number of Standards for which each student has achieved proficiency out of the total number of Standards (in this example, there are 15 Standards, so each shows # of 15.
  5. The footer shows the class average Proficiency level for each Standard and activity. As with the traditional gradebook, you can customize what else is shown in the footer.
  6. Clicking a student shows you the student view.
  7. The Trends tab is created specifically for Standards-based grading courses to give teachers an interactive visual representation of how students in a course are performing against standards.

Note: For those familiar with Buzz's traditional, here are  couple of noticeable differences in the Standards-based grading Gradebook:

  • The Mastery screen that shows objective mastery in the traditional Buzz Gradebook does not appear in the Standards-based grading Gradebook because mastery is the focus of the main gradebook.
  • There is no Quick editing option in the  Standards-based grading Gradebook.
  • The Display options in the Standards-based grading Gradebook are different from the traditional.

Proficiency Trend lines

Trend lines for individual Proficiency standard graphs can be used as follows:

  1. Trend lines that move upward, from left to right, indicate that, as more activities aligned to this Proficiency standard are graded, the overall Proficiency scores are going up. This is a positive trend as it indicates that experience with the standard is increasing understanding.
  2. Trend lines that move downward, from left to right, indicate that, as more activities aligned to this Proficiency standard are graded, the overall Proficiency scores are going down. This is a negative trend as it indicates that experience with the standard does not seem to be increasing understanding.
  3. Students who appear far above or below the Trend line may warrant attention, as they might be performing exceptionally well or needing additional assistance.
    • In the example for Proficiency standard 4, the Trend line indicates that, overall, students are performing better against the standard as they complete more activities that assess it. The highlighted example student, however, sits outside of the line; her Proficiency score remains low even though she has completed more activities. It might be worth checking in with Cassandra on this standard.

Submit final grades in a Standards-based grading course

Frequently, even if you're using a Standards-based model to help students gain proficiency with Standards over time, you have to submit a final grade in a more traditional format (A-F, P/F, etc.). The Final-grade scale configured in your domain manages this automatically.

When you're ready to generate final grades:

  1. Click the wrench [tools] icon and select Go to final grades.
  1. The Final-grade scale maps the calculated course score (the average of the Standard scores, represented as a percentage) to a traditional letter grade. Click the speech bubble in the Comments column next to a student to provide individual final feedback. Similar to traditional-graded courses, the teacher can override the automatically calculated letter with a letter of their choice. The final-grades screen continues to show the automatically calculated one in the Calculated grade column, and the letter that was submitted by the teacher in the Grade to submit column.
  2. When grades are ready, you select the students whose grades are completed and click Submit selected.
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